Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Dresden, New Year's Eve

There are laws in the U.S. that make New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July somewhat tame events. Not so in Germany. Fireworks are heard year round but New Year’s things get a little crazy. As darkness falls, pedestrians feel like they are caught in a war zone, with pops and flashes going off on all sides and sirens blaring through the streets.
 
That parallel increases at midnight, as the church bells all over town begin to ring, and the whole city explodes with rockets. The skyline all around is lit up with color, and the streets literally fill up with smoke from all the celebrating.
 
One cannot help but think about another night in 1945 when the city of Dresden was completely destroyed by firebombing toward the end of Word War II. Every year on the anniversary of that night the church bells ring out at 10:14, the very moment of the first attack, and continue to ring for two minutes, the amount of time it took the first attack to level the city.
 
This attack has had a huge impact on popular culture ever since, from songs by Iron Maiden and Pink Floyd to books like “Slaughterhouse-Five.” Erich Kästner (author of the book that inspired “The Parent Trap”) wrote in his autobiography:

"I was born in the most beautiful city in the world. Even if your father, child, was the richest man in the world, he could not take you to see it, because it does not exist any more. …In a thousand years was her beauty built, in one night was it utterly destroyed".
 
Thankfully, it does exist, and is becoming one of the most beautiful if not the most beautiful cities in Germany again. Check it out some New Year’s Eve.

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